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Handshake, homeless man


I feel like a horrible person for asking this but, I bought a homeless man a meal and to thank me, he shook my hand. I had a small cut (the type one gets next to their nails "cuticle", on my middle finger). I have no idea if he had a cut or anything on his hand. Is this in any possible imaginable way risky in terms of HIV?

Like do I need to worry at all over this?



Hi there and thanks for reaching out to the AIDS Vancouver Helpline. My name is Colin and I am happy to answer your question today.

I understand you are concerned about the possibility of acquiring HIV after shaking hands with a homeless person. I hope the information I can provide will help put your mind at ease.

Right away I can tell you that this was a no risk exposure. We generally focus on the activity rather than the people involved when we speak about HIV risk and regardless of cuts on either of your hands, you are no more likely to have contracted HIV from this encounter than from shaking hands with anyone else.

For there to be a successful transmission of HIV there must first HIV present. Next there must be an exchange of bodily fluids with direct access to the bloodstream. Finally, and important in any kind of environmental exposure like this, once exposed to the air for even a few moments, while it may not die, HIV is immediately rendered non-transmissible meaning it can no longer be passed on from person to person. Because these conditions cannot be met during these routine kind of encounters (shaking hands, sharing glassware or cutlery, holding doors, using toilet seats, etc) they are all categorized as no risk exposures.

I hope the information I've been able to provide can put your mind at ease. Please feel free to post again if you'd like any more information or clarification.

All the best,